Around the world, waste generation rates are rising. In 2016, the worlds’ cities generated 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste, amounting to a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanization, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% from 2016 levels to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050.
Compared to those in developed nations, residents in developing countries, especially the urban poor, are more severely impacted by unsustainably managed waste. In low-income countries, over 90% of waste is often disposed in unregulated dumps or openly burned. These practices create serious health, safety, and environmental consequences. Poorly managed waste serves as a breeding ground for disease vectors, contributes to global climate change through methane generation, and even promotes urban violence.
Managing waste properly is essential for building sustainable and livable cities, but it remains a challenge for many developing countries and cities. Effective waste management is expensive, often comprising 20%–50% of municipal budgets. Operating this essential municipal service requires integrated systems that are efficient, sustainable, and socially supported.
The World Bank finances and advises on solid waste management projects using a diverse suite of products and services, including traditional loans, results-based financing, development policy financing, and technical advisory. World Bank-financed waste management projects address the entire lifecycle of waste—from generation to collection and transportation, and finally treatment and disposal.
Objectives that guide the Bank’s solid waste management projects and investments include:
- Infrastructure: The World Bank provides capital investments to build or upgrade waste sorting and treatment facilities, close dumps, construct or refurbish landfills, and provide bins, dumpsters, trucks, and transfer stations.
- Legal structures and institutions: Projects advise on sound policy measures and coordinated institutions for the municipal waste management sector.
- Financial sustainability: Through the design of taxes and fee structures, and long-term planning, projects help governments improve waste cost containment and recovery.
- Citizen engagement: Behavior change and public participation is key to a functional waste system. The World Bank supports designing incentives and awareness systems to motivate waste reduction, source-separation and reuse.
- Social inclusion: Resource recovery in most developing countries relies heavily on informal workers, who collect, sort, and recycle 15%–20% of generated waste. Projects address waste picker livelihoodsthrough strategies such as integration into the formal system, as well as the provision of safe working conditions, social safety nets, child labor restrictions, and education.
- Climate change and the environment: Projects promote environmentally sound waste disposal. They support greenhouse gas mitigation through food loss and waste reduction, organic waste diversion, and the adoption of disposal technologies that capture biogas and landfill gas. Waste projects also support resilience by reducing waste disposal in waterways and safeguarding infrastructure against flooding.
- Health and safety: The World Bank’s work in municipal waste management improves public health and livelihoods by reducing open burning, mitigating pest and disease vector spread, and preventing crime and violence.
- Knowledge creation: The World Bank helps governments plan and explore locally appropriate solutions through technical expertise, and data and analytics.
The World Bank’s waste management engagement spans multiple development areas, including energy, environmental sustainability, food and agriculture, health and population, social protection, transportation, urban development, and water.
Since 2000, the World Bank has committed over $4.7 billion to more than 340 solid waste management programs in all six regions of World Bank engagement. Recent or committed infrastructure lending and technical assistance have supported numerous initiatives, including:
East Asia and the Pacific
- In Indonesia, a $100 million loan is supporting a $1 billion national program to reform waste management practices for around 70 participating cities, impacting around 50 million people. The loan will support the strengthening of local policies and institutions, closure and rehabilitation of old and informal dumpsites, and installation of sustainable disposal sites including modern sanitary landfills with landfill gas collection mechanisms.
- In China, a results-based incentive program has motivated household kitchen waste separation. The $80 million loan has also supported the construction of a modern anaerobic digestion facility to ferment and recover energy from organic waste, which will benefit 3 million people.
- In Vietnam, investments in solid waste management are helping the city of Can Tho prevent clogging of drains, which could result in flooding. Similarly, in the Philippines, investments are helping Metro Manila reduce flood risk by minimizing solid waste ending up in waterways. By focusing on improved collection systems, community-based approaches, and providing incentives, the waste management investments are contributing to reducing marine litter, particularly in Manila Bay.
Europe and Central Asia
- In Azerbaijan, World Bank loans supported the rehabilitation of the main landfill site and establishment of a state-owned waste management company, increasing the population served by the formal solid waste management system from 53% in 2008 to 74% in 2012. Support also led to further sustainable waste management practices, helping achieve a 25% recycling and reuse rate.
Latin America and the Caribbean
- In Argentina, $40 million in loans and grants helped to reduce and properly treat food waste through partnerships with food banks and retailers, close over 70 dumpsites, and construct 11 waste facilities.
- In Jamaica, community participation and waste collection services improved in 18 communities through results-based financing and infrastructure investments. Waste activities also led to job creation and contributed to a crime prevention and reduction program.
Middle East and North Africa
- In Morocco, a series of Development Policy Loans totaling $500 million improved citizen engagement and transparency, strengthened private sector partnerships and accountability, increased fee collection, and supported better working conditions for—and the social inclusion of—20,000 informal workers.
- In the West Bank, loans have supported the construction of three landfill sites that serve over 2 million residents, enabled dump closure, developed sustainable livelihood programs for waste pickers, and linked payments to better service delivery through results-based financing.
- In Nepal, a results-based financing project of $4.3 million increased user fee collection and improved waste collection services in five municipalities, benefitting 800,000 residents.
- InPakistan, a $5.5 million dollar project supported a composting facility in Lahore in market development and the sale of emission reduction credits under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Activities resulted in reductions of 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents and expansion of daily compost production volume from 300 to 1000 tonnes per day.
- In Liberia, $10.5 million has been committed to improve waste collection and construct a new sanitary landfill and transfer stations.
- In Burkina Faso, the World Bank has supported the solid waste sector with over $67 million in loans since 2005, supporting waste sector planning and construction of two landfills. The capital city, Ouagdougou, now collects an average of 78% of waste generated, which is significantly higher than the 46% average in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Learn more about the World Bank’s work on solid waste management here.
World Bank engagement in solid waste management is supported through valuable partnerships, including funding from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Korean Green Growth Trust Fund, and the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA), as well as collaboration on capacity building and knowledge sharing through a memorandum of understanding with the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).